Group warns of further blackouts amid short supply, calls for more renewable power sources

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) – Rotating blackouts will remain a perennial problem for Filipinos, especially Luzon residents, unless there's a substantial increase in power generation capacity.

Experts from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said there remains a huge gap between electricity supply and demand, which would likely worsen in the summer months next year.

"I'd like to take a long-term view on how to solve our long-term problem. It's not a problem just today – every year, second quarter we face that. If our economy grows, we will face that," Alberto Dalusung III, energy transition adviser at ICSC, said in a Monday morning forum. "We have a lot of catching up to do."

Residents of Metro Manila and provinces in Luzon experienced rotating power outages from Monday to Wednesday last week after multiple coal-fired power plants, including a unit of the 647-megawatt Sual facility which is among the biggest sources in the region, went on emergency shutdown.

With three hydroelectric plants on scheduled maintenance and the reduced energy production of the Kepco Ilijan Gas power plant, the Luzon grid was stripped of as much as 4,064 megawatts of supply.

The ICSC official added that the government should approve more renewable energy projects as these are easier to build with less damage to the environment.

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Among the quick fixes could be solar panel installations for buildings to ease power demand from the grid and energy conservation efforts on the part of consumers, said Peter Maniego, Jr., ICSC senior policy advisor and former chairman of the National Renewable Energy Board.

"The long-term solution, really, is to take advantage of the cheapest, quickest to deploy technology options for us -- solar, wind, other renewables," Dalusung added.

He said coal plants are intermittent and unreliable as they do not operate as a true baseload capacity, which raises the risk of outages and therefore, electricity supply deficits.

Three big coal-fired facilities suddenly went offline last week, triggering three days of rotating power outages. Coal-fired plants account for the bulk of the country's energy sources.

"You can't just replace a coal plant with another coal plant in a year. We need to have the solutions in terms of quick to deploy power plants. We think that certainly, solar is the quickest to deploy," Dalusung said, noting that about 9,000 MW of solar service contracts have been issued by the Department of Energy for Luzon.

The agency announced in October last year that it will stop endorsing greenfield coal power plants, or those involving new and untapped areas.

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